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Transcript of Weekly Media Briefing by Official Spokesperson (December 06, 2018)

December 06, 2018

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Namaskar friends, good afternoon and welcome to this weekly briefing. There are two statements which I have to make before I get into that question and answer round. After this weekly press briefing the Foreign Secretary will come here and will brief you all on Rashtrapati Ji’s visit to Myanmar which is starting early next week.

And on the second, please allow me to read our reaction to the terrorist attack which just took place in Chabahar.

India strongly condemns today’s despicable terrorist attack in Chabahar Iran. We express our condolences to the government and the people of Iran and the families of the victims of this attack. We wish speedy recovery to those injured. The perpetrators behind this dastardly attack should be brought to justice expeditiously. There can be no justification for any act of terror.

So these were the two announcement statements, now I open the floor to questions.

Question: It seems Pakistan is very keen to declare Gilgit Baltistan as its sixth province. There was this cabinet meeting and it was one of the items on the agenda and their so called governor also met the Foreign Minister?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Our stated position on Gilgit Baltistan has been very clear and consistent. We have said that the entire state of Jammu & Kashmir has been and shall remain part of India. Any attempt by Pakistan to change the legal status has no basis whatsoever. We call upon Pakistan to vacate all occupied territory.

Question: Christian Michel ke pratyarpan mein safalta Bharat ko praapt hui hai. MEA se main jaananaa chaahunga ki tarah se ye kaaryakram kiya gaya jisase wo Bharat aa paye?

(India has succeeded in extradition of Christian Michel. Would like details from MEA about this whole operation.)

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:
So you want a minute to minute account. Any other question on this?

Question: Kya British High Commission ne Consular Access mangi hai aur uske baare mein Videsh Mantralay ka jawaab kya hai?

(Has the British High Commission sought consular access of Mr. Michel and what is the response of MEA on the request?)

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Any other question on this?

Question: There are reports that NSA Mr. Ajeet Doval monitored the operations, what is the factual position?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:
You see, I think we need to understand the role which Ministry of External Affairs plays in such cases.

You are aware that we had received two requests from CBI and also from ED for the extradition of Christian Michel from the UAE. Both these requests were forwarded to the UAE Government by our mission in Abu Dhabi. I would like to highlight two aspects. One, after following all due process and number two, after exhausting of all judicial process Christian Mitchel was extradited to India.

You must have also seen the Press Note issued by the Central Bureau of Investigation which answers the question, the matter is being handled by CBI. Any further queries as to how the whole thing worked out, I think it should be addressed to them. I can only highlight that this is an example of reflection of cooperation between India and UAE, close strategic partnership which we have between the two countries.

On the query regarding consular access, I can confirm that we have received a request from the UK High Commission seeking consular access. The matter at this point of time is being examined within the ministry and we will revert to the British High Commission very soon.

Videsh Mantralaya ka jo role hai is extradition process mein wo bahut hi clear hai. Videsh Mantralay ke pass CBI aur ED se request aaya tha extradition ke liye aur in dono request ko humne UAE ki authorities ko pass kiya tha aur request kiya tha apne Abu Dhabi ke mission ke through.

Jo due process hota hai, ye baat gaur karne laayak hai, jo due process hota hai usko maddenazar rakhate hue aur jo bhi legal process hai usko exhaust karne ke baad Christian Mitchel ka extradition Bharat mei hua. Ye maamla CBI ki dekhrekh mein hai, unhone iske upar ek bahut hii detailed press release bhi jaari kiya hai aur mujhe lagta hai ki baaki jo sawaal hain is maamle mein, wo sabhi CBI ko address kiye jaane chaahiye.

Question: Different reactions came from Pakistan after the groundbreaking ceremony of Kartarpur Corridor. Do you think it was a stunt by Pakistan especially after that Googly comment by the Foreign Minister of Pakistan?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:
I am sure you must have seen the remarks which our External Affairs Minister made on this matter. I don’t think I should qualify her remarks on twitter.

On the Kartarpur Corridor issue itself, we see it as a fulfilment of the long pending demand of the Sikh community. It was indeed unfortunate that Pakistan attempted to politicize a religious issue related to sentiments of the Sikh community. We do hope that Pakistan will fulfill all the announcements they have made in this regard. They will implement the announcements which they have made with regard to the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor.

Question: On Kartarpur Corridor, is there any specific time that within this time only pilgrims can go, and is it open only for Sikhs or any other Indian citizen can also go?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:
As far as my knowledge goes those details have not yet been discussed. There has been announcement in principle. There was an announcement made by us, there was a reciprocal announcement made by the Pakistani side. Now the details of how the whole thing is going to work has to be discussed. As I mentioned that Pakistan has to come true to the announcement which they have made, as they have made a lot of announcements as to what they will do on their side of the border and I think it is important that they implement those announcements expeditiously.

Question: The initial schedule of the Kartarpur ceremony that was done by the Pakistani Ministry of Religious affairs there clearly showed that neither the Indian cabinet minister of the minister of state would be making a speech and they would not be given the surro-pass on the other hand Sidhu would be. Now isn’t this a clear breach of protocol on one hand, also the Indian government intervened at that time in short some changes. Also the bridge that was supposed to be that should happen, has work on that started, has India been notified on it?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: I think you are absolutely right not only the two incidents which you mentioned but you know even the protocol officer, who is supposed to be there, there are two cabinet ministers and the protocol officer who was supposed to be there together with the dignitaries, he was not allowed to go inside, which kind of restricts your functionality.

Apart from the two incidents that you mentioned, these are things which happened and again I will come back to the point about the seriousness with which Pakistan tried to approach this very sensitive religions matter.

Question Contd.: There was a promise by Pakistan to make a bridge to facilitate movement,

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: I have already answered that Pakistan has to implement the announcements which they have made in this regard i.e. with regard to Kartarpur Corridor.

Question: Are there any updates on the arrest of three Indian IL&FS workers in Ethiopia?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:
Yes, I was actually in touch with my Ambassador in Ethiopia. We are closely coordinating with IL&FS both here as well as in Ethiopia. We are also in touch with the local government authorities. My sense is that we should be in a position to resolve this matter very soon.

Question: Can you elaborate on these breaches of protocol which you just confirmed, what were these breaches, you said that the protocol officer was not allowed to go inside, can you just elaborate what exactly you are referring to?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:
You see these are actually intricate and detailed protocol matters, what I meant was that normally when you have a cabinet minister visiting, it helps to have a protocol officer in hand who can assist the ministers. So that didn’t happen but going beyond this, I think I have already answered the real intention. Minister herself has made a comment on this matter.

Question Contd.: So the protocol officer was not allowed to go inside the Gurudwara?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: That is what I am saying let’s not get into the technical details as to what extent he was allowed to go. I have already said that there was a problem regarding access given to the protocol officer.

Question: This is regarding the letter that was sent recently by the US President to Pakistan and it was in response to the public chiding by Imran Khan of Donald Trump about so called facts of Pakistan-USA relationship. Now in that letter Trump has seemingly, I had used the word seemingly very carefully, acknowledged Pakistan and Imran Khan’s long held belief that Pakistan made many sacrifices and as equal partner etc. etc. Is there any apprehension on the fact that the US administration under Trump seems to be perhaps blowing hot blowing cold, block their aide one day and then acknowledges Imran Khan’s long standing belief, is there any change as far as any signals are concerned from the Trump administration?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: I don’t share that assessment. We are ourselves are very clear as far as the process of engagement and policy on Afghanistan peace process is concerned, which we have articulated several times. We have said that whatever peace process gets underway in Afghanistan should be Afghan owned, Afghan driven and Afghan controlled.

Question: Has the United Kingdom contacted you for Christian Michel and consular access to him?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:
That was the first question I answered. Yes, the answer is yes.

Question: Former Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister has written a letter to Prime Minister to open another religious route in Jammu & Kashmir, i.e. Sharada Devi temple. So has the ministry conveyed the request to Pakistan government?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:
I am not aware of this letter, sorry. You mean Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister has written a letter to our Prime Minister, I am not aware of this, I can check and get back to you on this.

Question: Will it be possible to share the status on the seven Indian engineers abducted in Afghanistan seven months ago?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Unfortunately there has been no change. I can only tell you that we do remain engaged with the Afghan authorities, we are actively pursuing and making all efforts to ensure the early and safe release of all the people who have been kidnapped. As I mentioned in the past this is a sensitive issue which involves the lives of people therefore I have not shared much from this platform.

Question: This is regarding Bangladesh elections, as earlier we have seen that you have reacted to elections in many neighboring countries. So how India is viewing its immediate neighbor Bangladesh’ general reactions which is to be held on 30th December?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: We view the elections in Bangladesh as an internal matter of Bangladesh. I don’t think it is appropriate for MEA to comment on the internal affairs of our friendly neighbor country.

Question: Member of Parliament Rajeev Chandrashekhar yesterday wrote a letter to the EAM regarding the evacuation of an Indian who met with an accident in the US. He is apparently in coma, his name is Col. Virendra Singh Rawat. So what is being done in this regard, any update?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:
Since the letter has only been written yesterday, I can only tell you that I have not spoken to our mission but normally in such cases where we get letters from Members of Parliament and also from common people, we do get in touch with our mission and we tell them to contact next of the kin of the person who is affected. I can tell you that even in this case something must have been done but I can share more details once I speak to our Mission in the US.

Question: India aur Iran ne oil payment ke liye rupee mein ek deal kiya tha 2 tareekh ko Uco bank mein jismein 50% export of goods tha aur 50% escrow funds, to uspe kuch bataayein.

(India and Iran had a deal for oil payment in rupee on 2nd day of the month in Uco bank which had 50% for export of goods and 50% for escrow funds, so please elaborate a little on that.)

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:
Dekhiye main itna to aapko bata doon ki Iran par main jyada detail mein nahi bolunga. Main itna bata sakta hoon ki jo America ne hamein exempt kiya tha, unhone appreciate kiya tha hamaari energy requirement ko aur uske tahat unhone usko exempt kiya tha. Baaki jo details hain ki kis dhang se ye kiyaa jaayega, iske baare mein main tippani nahi karna chaahunga. Itna main bata doon ki abhi 6 mahine mein kaafi waqt hai aur jab waqt nazdeek aayega to hum uspar kuch baatayenge aapko.

(Let me tell you that I am not going to speak in detail about the Iran payment issue. I can tell you that the exemption that US gave us, they appreciated our energy requirements and that is the reason they exempted us.

Further about the details of how it will be done, I would not like to comment on that. Let me tell you that there is still a lot of time for six months to complete and when the time is right we will definitely share details about the same.)

Question: National Security Advisor of Japan was in Islamabad yesterday and he had talked to the Foreign Minister and they talked about terrorism and many other things. Since we have very close relations with Japan, do you have any knowledge about what is going on between Japan and Pakistan?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:
What is going on is very difficult for me to guess but I can tell you that we don’t see a relation between Japan and Pakistan as kind of impinging on the close strategic relationship which India shares with Japan. We have our own independent relationship, it stands on its own merit. It is a full-fledged relationship cutting across different dimensions, so the relations between Japan and Pakistan, I am sure that is something which perhaps you should address either to Pakistan or Japan.

Question: Chinese Foreign Minister will be in India this month, so what are the key issues on the table in terms of security, in terms of the boundary issue and trade?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:
We will be issuing a detailed statement or a press release on the visit. You are aware that this visit of the Chinese Foreign Minister is taking place following a meeting between Prime Minister and President Xi which took place sometime back and it was at that meeting there was a decision taken that the two Foreign Ministers should meet and during that visit there will also be a component called High Level Media Forum where we are planning to bring together media person from both sides for an interactive session. We will issue a more detailed statement on the upcoming visit of Chinese Foreign Minister perhaps sometime next week.

Question: Defence Minister Nirmala Seetharaman was in Washington and held talks with her counterpart, so during these discussions did the US side conveyed any assurance to India regarding imposing CAATSA sanctions on India?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:
Look, it is difficult for me to answer this specific query but what I gathered from the visit that the Defence Minister had a very good meeting with the US Defence Secretary. Some of the issues which are actually being discussed between the two sides, they also came up for discussion but for specific issues I think you will have to contact the Ministry of Defence.

Thank you very much.

(Concludes)

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